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Sex‐biased disease dynamics increase extinction risk by impairing population recovery

Rosa, Gonçalo Miranda, Bosch, Jamie, Martel, An, Pasmans, Frank, Rebelo, Rui, Griffiths, Richard A., Garner, Trenton W. J. (2019) Sex‐biased disease dynamics increase extinction risk by impairing population recovery. Animal Conservation, 22 (6). pp. 579-588. E-ISSN 1469-1795. (doi:10.1111/acv.12502) (KAR id:74114)


The periodicity of life‐cycle events (phenology) modulates host availability to pathogens in a repeatable pattern. The effects of sexual differences in host phenology have been little explored in wildlife epidemiological studies. A recent series of ranavirosis outbreaks led to serious declines of Boscas’ newt populations at Serra da Estrela (Portugal). The peculiar phenology of this species, in which a large number of females remain in the aquatic habitat after the breeding season, turns it into a suitable model to test how sex‐biased mortality can affect host population persistence in the context of infectious diseases. We investigated how the phenology of Bosca's newt (i.e. biased number of females) mediated the impact of Ranavirus. We then evaluated the risk of extinction of the population under different scenarios of sex‐biased mortality using a population viability analysis. Two newt populations (one subject to yearly outbreaks and a comparative site where outbreaks have not been recorded) were tracked for trends over time following emergence of ranaviral disease, allowing us to assess the differential impact of the disease on both sexes. In addition to a significant decline in abundance of adult newts, our data suggest that phenology can affect disease dynamics indirectly, leading to reduction in females and a reversal of the sex ratio of the breeding population. Our models suggest that female‐biased mortality does not exacerbate Ranavirus‐driven population declines in the short‐term, but is likely to have a deleterious impact during the recovery process once the lethal effect of disease is removed from the system.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/acv.12502
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH541 Ecology
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH75 Conservation (Biology)
Q Science > QL Zoology
R Medicine > RB Pathology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Depositing User: Richard Griffiths
Date Deposited: 27 May 2019 13:24 UTC
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2022 22:10 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Rosa, Gonçalo Miranda.

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Griffiths, Richard A..

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